The alumni family of runners

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Benjamin, Stephen and Abigail Jones
Dr Stephen Jones (centre) with son Benjamin and daughter Abigail

A family of University of Liverpool graduates recently took part in a series of competitive road races in Spain.

Dr Stephen Jones (BDS Dentistry 1974) together with three of his children, Christian, Benjamin (BSc Psychology 2013), and Abigail (BA English Literature & Hispanic Studies 2009), all successfully completed their races in Valencia. Had eldest son Nathaniel (BA Hons Biological Sciences 2006) been able to secure a place for the marathon, it would have meant a clean sweep of the whole family taking part. What is even more remarkable is that, with the exception of Christian, all are Liverpool graduates.

An early morning temperature of 15 degrees Celsius was favourable at the start of the 10K race as Stephen, Benjamin and Abigail took their starting positions. By the time Christian completed the marathon later that morning, the temperature had crept up to 22 degrees. “A bit of a challenge from the temperatures of the last few months in UK!” Stephen admitted.

Asked if the family is competitive, Stephen replied, “I wouldn't say the family is particularly competitive but is very driven in some similar and some different aspects. We like to become involved in doing things together, for example the time we stepped in to run the Liverpool half-marathon in 2012 when Benjamin was unable to compete as he had sustained a fractured leg when involved in a ‘hit and run’ incident around the University campus. Christian is very self-competitive setting himself ‘stretch’ targets.”

Stephen was running in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease Association and in memory of his late wife Christine (nee Cain, MB ChB Medicine 1975) whom he met at Liverpool, and who sadly died of Motor Neurone Disease in 2013.

Stephen explained why he supports the work of MNDA: "Motor Neurone Disease is such a devastating illness with no known cure; the MND Association has a wonderful network of staff and volunteers who support not only those affected by the disease but also their families. MNDA deserves support as it doesn't have the same high profile as other charities that collect for more well-known conditions. Funding is critical for essential research to continue which hopefully one day will determine the causes so effective treatments may be designed. Funding is also needed to support families affected as we were; the kindness shown is not forgotten”.

While at Liverpool Stephen admits he enjoyed “a full student life” – “it wasn’t ‘beer and skittles all the way, but very much a case of adopting the philosophy of ‘work hard and play hard’” – graduating with a degree in Dentistry in 1974. Following an extensive career in Dentistry, Stephen is currently the Clinical lead for Dental Sedation at the University of Central Lancashire and President of The Society for the Advancement of Anaesthesia in Dentistry (SAAD), a national charitable organisation dedicated to the advancement of knowledge in pain and anxiety control for dentistry.

Stephen’s sister Zorina is also a graduate of the University. So with six family members as graduates, what is it about the University of Liverpool that’s so special? “The university’s reputation; the quality of the education is a given and coupled with Liverpool’s unique character and 'soul' to go with it, there is a ‘magical attraction’”.

So will the family be doing more runs together in the future?

“Yes, the children have more runs planned; Christian has a few booked already. In June, he is running the Tromso Midnight Sun Marathon in Norway which is run through the night when the sun never sets, the Hackney half marathon in May and is hoping to secure an entry at the Berlin marathon for an attempt to break the 3 hour time limit that he has set himself.

Abigail, who lives and works in Girona, has entered the city’s 10k event that is being held in April and Benjamin has some half-marathons lined up. My focus will now be on swimming, spinning and gym work in preparation for next year’s cycling season; a ride through the chain of Outer Hebrides islands has been finalised for May.”